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Justin Parkinson, political reporter for the BBC, takes us through the history of cricket ball manufacture in the UK. From April 1914 when workers from west Kent threatened to hold the cricket season hostage by not producing any more balls until they were reimbursed appropriately. At the time they had been supplying the best quality for over 150 years, but as the 20th century wore on the monopoly went into steady decline.
Kent's ball manufacturers employed several hundred people at the time, many of whom complained of being treated like "sweated labour".
"The power of the union may be largely a thing of the past, and cricket ball manufacture, along with pretty much everything else in cricket, has now largely moved to the subcontinent", says Matt Thacker, managing editor of The Nightwatchman, the Wisden Cricket Quarterly magazine."But it's great to be reminded occasionally how deeply ingrained into the fabric of English life cricket was.
T20 cricket has been dubbed the best vehicle to sell the game across the far reaches of the globe. But what happens when the bug bites but the players do not have the requisite equipment to mimic Chris Gayle's monstrous hits or Lasith Malinga's searing toe-crushers? A town in Cuba faced this conundrum but Scyld Berry's column, in the Telegraph, explains how a charity has taken responsibility of supplying the locals all they need to fuel their passion for cricket.
To see the impact of the arrival of four quality bats in Guantanamo was heart-warming, even for a bowler, and of the first cricket helmet the players had ever seen. A useful addition, because the first ball of our middle-practice - just short of a length - went three feet over the batsman's head.
The list of engineers in Indian cricket is a long and illustrious one and while Mumbai pacer Saurabh Netravalkar is a rank newbie on that list, he has already combined his academic focus with his knowledge of the game to develop a cricket-based application.
Called CricDeCode, the application is designed to help cricketers analyse their game and can be used across platforms. The inspiration behind it was simple enough. "I didn't want the hours of engineering studies to go to waste," Netravalkar told Hindustan Times. "That's how I thought of developing the mobile app."
In the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, Netravalkar was the leading wicket-taker for India after which the fast bowler decided to split his focus on engineering and cricket. He graduated with a degree in computer science last year and also made his first-class and List A debuts for Mumbai earlier in this season.
One of the most influential figures in the life of Sarfaraz Khan - India's 16-year-old batting allrounder - is his father and coach, Naushad. One of the many things Naushad, a hard taskmaster, did to support and push his son's cricketing ambition was to install a synthetic pitch near their house to ensure Sarfaraz had access to practice facilities at all times. Sarfaraz who hit a half-century, took four catches and a wicket in India's first game of the Under-19 World Cup against Pakistan, found a unique way to thank his father at the tournament.
At the media conference after the game against Pakistan, Sarfaraz was asked why his shirt number had changed from 86 to 97. As it turned out, it was no clerical error but one done purposely, as a mark of respect to his father. In Hindi, '9' and '7' are nau and saat respectively. Said together, it rhymes with 'Naushad'.
Sunil Gavaskar's 10,000th run, Richard Hadlee's 400th wicket, Anil Kumble's cleansweep, cricket's 1000th Test in 1984 and its 2000th in 2011 - Qamar Ahmed; has seen them all. The Sharjah Test; between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is his 400th as a reporter, and he has been present at 19% of all Tests played to date.
His favourite is Gavaskar's last innings, a 96 in a losing cause against Pakistan in Bangalore, memorable because even spinners had the ball rearing chest-high on a poor pitch. Michael Holding's furious 14-wicket haul at The Oval in 1976 is Qamar's bowling equivalent.
A first-class left-arm spinner in Pakistan in his youth, Qamar was based out of the UK for most of his reporting career. In addition to having written extensively in English, Urdu and Hindi, he has also been a broadcaster for Test Match Special, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Television New Zealand, among others.
The press in Sharjah missed the chance to perform a guard of honour with their laptops, but the PCB and Pakistan team presented Qamar with mementoes and two signed Test shirts, wishing him many more matches in the press box. It is a sentiment Qamar agrees with heartily - he said: "I am not retiring as long as I'm on my feet."
Big-hitting Melbourne Renegades captain Aaron Finch has indicated he wouldn't mind dropping down the order for his team. Why? Because he has come across a couple of mightier hitters of the cricket ball than himself. Who? The Williams sisters.
USA tennis stars Serena and Venus, in Melbourne for the Australian Open, tried their hand at batting on Thursday, and smashed Finch and a certain Muttiah Muralitharan all over the rooftop on which they were playing. "They're more than welcome to bat up the order, I might have to slide down a few spots," Finch joked after the Renegades event.
Yes, a heavy bat might have had something to do with all the carnage. "I just hit it as hard as I could. But the bat was heavy," Venus laughed. "We don't play cricket, it's not our sport, but we were excited to come out and try." A good workout in the lead up to their tennis commitments then? "Think so. Feeling loose," Serena said. "We had a few nerves but we got through it."
For Yusuf, birds are not just things of beauty but their continuous activity raises the energy level all around. "You never feel lonely in their company. We have an African gray parrot which mimics everyone."
Once he almost bought a camel.
"I was coming from Ajwa when I encountered a tribe with camels and their young ones. I decided to buy one from there but the friend accompanying me, informed my mother who refused permission, saying it's a big animal and it would be difficult to take care of," he says.
No, we're not talking about the Ashes. This particular match took place 'down under' in a more literal sense. Down under a mountain, in a slate mine, in Lake District - a mountainous region in northwest England. Two village teams, Threlkeld and Caldbeck, were involved in the game, widely believed to be the first underground cricket match.
Honister Slate Mine hosted the game, a fundraiser, amid a network of underground tunnels inside the mountain Fleetwith Pike. And if everyone on hand had to wear hard hats it was because of the 2000ft of rock and slate above their heads, not because a flurry of sixes were expected - there were no designated boundaries in the match and the batsmen had to run all their runs, resulting in a middling target of 28 from six overs for Caldbeck to chase. The team made light work of it, winning with 10 balls to spare.
The cricket team that shoulders a billion hopes? No, we're not talking about India, but cricket's new converts - the Vatican. With ecclesiastical records numbering members of the Catholic church at around 1.2 billion worldwide, the ICC, in their bid to expand the game, would sure welcome the news of the Vatican being interested in cricket.
And that's what it seems to be, with the Pontifical Council for Culture announcing plans to form cricket teams - one for men, made up of priests from around the world, and a women's XI comprising nuns. Australia's ambassador to the Vatican, John McCarthy, a former SCG Trust member, is helping to put the teams together, and hopes to organise a match against a Church of England XI.
Cricket, McCarthy said, was already popular in Rome, with priests and religious arriving there from around the world, and the Vatican's teams would draw on talent from everywhere cricket is played. "Internationally one would have a team representing the Vatican drawn from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies," McCarthy told Vatican Radio. "We are looking for Sri Lankan, Indian or Pakistani sisters who have played cricket and if they are found, they certainly will be invited to join the [women's] cricket team."
The next time he gets a wicket or finds himself on a winning team, Dwayne Bravo could well break into the same dance moves that he's been busy learning on movie sets these days. The West Indies allrounder, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, will be appearing in a promotional song for the Tamil film Ulla.
On Monday, he tweeted pictures of himself getting makeup touch-ups and posing in his costume, looking the part of "Chennai's newest film star", as he calls himself.
According to Rajan Madhav, the film's director, Bravo agreed as soon as he was offered the chance to shake a leg under the arclights. "Our producer approached him through a common friend. He is known for his freestyle dancing and we want to capitalise on it. Show him the way the audiences would love to see him on screen," Madhav told IANS.
Now there's an off-the-field PR opportunity the IPL franchises never dreamed of.
Lights, camera, action time! Chennai's newest film star ;-) pic.twitter.com/jxkBmhoqUJ— Dwayne Bravo (@Newbigdog) October 7, 2013
Eric Ravilious' vision of cricketers in top hats has featured in 76 editions of the Wisden Almanack, but very little has surfaced about the man himself. Rupert Bates, in Wisden India, charts Ravilious' history from his less-than-attentive stints on the cricket field to possible sources of inspiration for the iconic engraving.
He said the game went on "a bit too long for my liking and I began to get a little absent-minded in the deep field after tea". He made one not out in defeat, and bowled a few overs. "It all felt like being back at school, especially the trestle tea with slabs of bread and butter, and that wicked-looking cheap cake." He went on to record the comment of the Double Crown captain Francis Meynell that his bowling was "of erratic length, but promising, and that I should have been put on before. Think of the honour and glory there."
Guy Whittall, the former Zimbabwe allrounder, put up an uninvited guest for a night earlier this week. The house guest followed the rules of etiquette too, remaining quiet, not putting the family out, not even snapping at the feet dangling invitingly in front of its nose ... A well-behaved, eight-foot, 165kg Nile crocodile, it was, which spent the night inches away from Whittall at the Humani Ranch, the Whittall's game reserve in southeastern Zimbabwe.
The crocodile had made its way into Whittall's house from a nearby river and, presumably, spent the night under his bed. It was only discovered by a housemaid in the morning, who understandably screamed bloody murder as Whittall breakfasted in the kitchen. "The really disconcerting thing about the whole episode is the fact that I was sitting on the edge of the bed that morning, bare foot and just centimetres away from the croc," Whittall said later. "It came from the Turgwe River, which is a couple of kilometres from the house. They often wander about the bush, especially when it's cold and raining. I think he liked it under the bed because it was warm."
Whittall called in his co-workers at the reserve and the croc, after a bit of wrestling, was returned unharmed to the wild.